Exotic flowers, wild meadows and a walk among the treetops in leafy west London
There’s an impressive 250 years (and counting) of history in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but they’re also paving the way for the future with not one, but two national bases for research into botanical studies. While you’re strolling through the Victorian Palm House or seeking out the luscious flora (including the giant, stinking Titan Arum in the Princess of Wales Conservatory), scientists are working away in offices and laboratories behind the scenes.
Nowadays the Gardens stand at a whopping 300 acres, but they started out a little more humbly in the back yard of what was once the royal palace – favoured most by George III. There’s loads to see here, whether you like green stuff or not. The grand Victorian glasshouses remain a favourite with visitors, one of which (Temperate House) holds the record for the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse. Plus it’s just about to reopen (at the beginning of May 2018) following a five year makeover. And if you want to explore elsewhere? Why not take a trip to the Tree Top Walkway? At 18 metres high, this trek through the leaves offers fab views of the grounds.
Once you’ve come back to earth, stroll down to the Chinese Pagoda, which was built in 1762 and towers over the southern end of the Gardens.
Given the exceptional upkeep and wide variety of fauna, you’re sure to be inspired. And if the plants aren’t doing the trick, try seeking out the sculptures, which feature Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Mother and Child’ in a stunning setting that changes with the light of each season. In fact, the art alone could take up your entire visit – see the Eduardo Paolozzi sculpture ‘A Maximis Ad Minima’ and visit the Marianne North Gallery and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, all included in the main entry price.
Whenever you visit Kew Gardens, there’s something in bloom. The website has a dedicated ‘what to see this week’ section, so even in autumn or winter, you can be assured you won’t just see a lot of old twigs.
|Venue name:||Kew Gardens|
Royal Botanic Gardens
|Opening hours:||Mar 27-Aug 29 Mon-Fri 10am-6.30pm, Sat, Sun and bank holidays 10am-7.30pm; Aug 30-Oct 29 daily 10am-6pm; Oct 30-Feb 10 2017 daily 10am-3.45pm; Feb 11-May 25 2017 daily 10am-5.30pm. Closed Dec 24 and 25. (Last entry 30 minutes before closing, some attractions close earlier, check on arrival.)|
|Transport:||Tube: Kew Gardens/Kew Bridge rail|
|Price:||£15, £14 concs, £3.50 ages 4-16, under-fours free, £19-£34 family. Online: £14, £13, £2.50, £18-£32.|
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Being an ignorant American, I knew almost nothing of Kew Gardens as I headed toward it. When we arrived the sun was shinning and the flowers were in full bloom. Between the greenhouses, the sculptures, and the performances, there were so many things to do at Kew Gardens I almost forgot to sit down on the grass and just enjoy the sunny nature. The Hive was definitely the highlight of my trip. Complete with an orchestral soundtrack, wild bees buzzing, and information on how to help the bee population, the giant geometric sculpture offered a surreal experience.
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